Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Clean Up Your Space!!
We are in a time that most of the "brand new" teachers have a social site somewhere and probably login every day. More and more, though, we hear of teachers being reprimanded for their antics on their social networking sites. This article from the Washington Post sums it up quite nicely. Is this a problem that should be addressed? I am very aware that some counties draw a line that no teacher can have a social networking site where other counties don't have any policy. So where do we draw the line, or do we need to draw any at all?
This research article on student and faculty relations in facebook found that there were no positive or negative effects on how students viewed the professor after finding he/she was on a social networking site. But, I found it interesting that students had mixed reactions about faculty being on the site. I found similar feedback on this in the article "Is My Space Your Space As Well" by Andy Carvin. Students didn't really like the fact that teachers might be viewing their profiles. One student even comments that people have things on their myspace page that they don't want other people to see such as those with alcohol and smoking. (A whole different blog post on that comment later!). That student, however, does go on to say that having a teacher as their "friend" could be nice when she had questions about homework.
We know that social networking can be a great way to communicate with students. Why not tap into what they already know and use it for meaningful education? New facebook applications are coming available every day including many geared directly toward education. You can do anything from create a wiki within your page to linking your students together to have a group discussion.
I went searching for some school districts that have rules for social networking accounts posted online. I found a list from the Jefferson County Board of Education that deals mostly with blogs, but social networking would fall under many of the same guidelines. You may notice that many of their guidelines include "informing" people of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Education is key. If everyone understands what is going on, they will be more receptive to the new technology. This is true for anything-not just blogs and social networking. I can imagine the difference in reactions if a teacher informs the parents that she has a facebook page set up for her class rather than Johnny coming home and telling mom that Mrs. Smith is on facebook!
I truly believe that training is important with this sensitive issue. Teachers need to be informed of how social networking can negatively effect them and how they can prevent that from happening. Most all of the situations that cause a reprimand of a teacher involve inappropriate material on their site which could easily be avoided. New teachers are in a generation of folks that aren't making the connection of internet and real world. All too often I hear of young kids commenting that "oh, that's just on myspace, everyone knows that doesn't matter". Teachers need to be well informed that "oh, yes it does matter". In my opinion, this training needs to be extensive for first year teachers to your district and then a refresher every year after. So much changes with technology and the internet from year to year, everyone needs to be reminded of the importance of not only internet safety but protecting ourselves as teachers.
All this in mind, there are social networking sites available specifically for educational purposes. One, Elgg, is highlighted in this article, titled Don't Tell Your Parents: Schools Embrace Myspace. Another, that is growing quite rapidly, is Ning, which is also a great resource for teachers including many specialized groups for sharing ideas in education.